USPS Acknowledges "Some Risk" to Customers With New Mail Changes
The agency is addressing concerns amid the peak holiday season.
As we head into the holiday season, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is wrapping up the third year of a major, decade-long transformation. Dubbed the Delivering for America (DFA) plan, this overhaul originated in 2021 as part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's promise to bring the USPS back from financial ruin. But as more and more adjustments are made to the agency's operations under DFA, there is no knowing whether or not they could have negative consequences at a time when postal demands are heightened during the holidays. In fact, the Postal Service has just admitted this themselves. Read on to discover more about why the USPS is acknowledging "some risk" to customers with new mail changes.
The USPS just entered its peak mailing season.
The Postal Service's work notably ramps up at the end of the year. "Each year, increased package volume and operational changes during the peak mailing season (peak season)—Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve—significantly strain the Postal Service's processing and distribution networks," the USPS Office of Inspector General (USPSOIG) explained in a new Nov. 15 report.
More than 11.7 billion mailpieces and packages were processed during the holiday season in 2022, according to a recent press release from the USPS. On average, it took the agency just 2.5 days to deliver a mailpiece or package to its intended destination during this time last year.
But now certain mail changes are adding concerns about the Postal Service's ability to handle this year's peak season.
The agency made certain mail changes ahead of the holidays.
Every year, the Postal Service creates "peak season initiatives" to help handle the increased demand it faces during the holidays. In its new report, the USPSOIG evaluated the agency's preparedness for this year's peak season through these preparedness initiatives that are "meant to help the Postal Service have the right amount of personnel, resources, and package capacity throughout its processing, transportation, and delivery networks."
There were several changes the USPSOIG took note of, particularly in terms of staffing levels. According to the report, the USPS is planning to hire only 10,000 temporary employees during the current holiday season. This is a 64 percent reduction in the agency's seasonal hiring, as it made 28,000 temporary hires during the last "peak season," Government Executive reported.
Breaking this down, the Postal Service is planning to seasonally hire around 4,500 retail and delivery employees (which is down 30 percent from last year) and about 5,500 operations and processing workers (which is down 75 percent from last year). But this is actually the second consecutive year in which the agency has significantly reduced its season hiring, according to the news outlet.
Some of these changes could put customers at risk for package delays.
In addition to lowering its seasonal staffing help, the USPSOIG also noted concerns with the agency's consolidation efforts. Through its DFA plan, the Postal Service has been in the process of "combining and centralizing" its mail processing, sorting, and distributing operations into just 60 new Regional Processing and Distribution Centers (RPDCs).
But the inspector general's office recently started examining the performance at one of these new mega-centers, and early results indicate that the change has led to an increase in the USPS missing its targets, according to Government Executive. These changes have officials worried about the risks customers could face with package delays during the holidays.
"The Postal Service has developed plans to handle the upcoming peak season. If the initiatives are implemented as planned and volume forecasts are accurate, the Postal Service should be prepared for peak season," the USPSOIG stated in its report. "However, the Postal Service is undertaking significant changes to its network and products this year. Specifically, changes to processing put the Postal Service at risk for parcel delays."
But the Postal Service said it is prepared nevertheless.
The USPS is aware that these changes could cause problems during the peak season, but Isaac Cronkhite, the agency's chief processing and distribution officer, told Government Executive that management is confident it can adequately address any issues that may arise.
"While we acknowledge that there is some risk associated with the significant changes to our network and how we process our products, we believe that the benefits of streamlining operations outweigh the risk," Cronkhite said. "We are prepared to mitigate any risk associated with the changes."
DeJoy also touted the Postal Service's preparedness, noting that its strategic and early planning with these changes will allow the agency to be the "most affordable way to ship and mail holiday cheer" in 2023.
"In the face of the busiest shipping season, the United States Postal Service stands ready," the Postmaster General told Government Executive. "We are confident in our ability to handle the holiday season surge with the same efficiency and reliability that the nation has come to expect from us throughout the year."